Sometimes we need to close the heart.
From personal experience and from observing my students I know how important it is to keep the heart area open (physical and emotional). Many holistic philosophies believe that sorrow, sadness and grief lodge in the lungs and close the heart so we spend a lot of time opening this area up. Think about all our lovely energy block release sequence focussed on the heart area, the fabulous expansion we get in warriors and strong back bends which leave us feeling uplifted, or the relief we feel from opening the chest as we release tight shoulders in postures such as cow face.
As many of you know last week I lost my much loved little dog, Reggie. This was a huge shock and not at all expected so I did not have time to get used to the idea of his passing. My immediate thought was to practice some heart opening yoga to help me process the strong emotions I was feeling. At the end of this first session I cried…a lot…a release I felt…but then I couldn’t stop. That evening I taught a class, opened my heart some more. To my surprise I started sobbing – not my usual teaching style! My students were wonderfully kind but this was not how I wanted to be.
The following day I went back to my yoga mat and thought about the yoga I was practising. I realised that the strong heart opening yoga was just too much for me at this time. What I actually needed was to close my heart a little, to stem the flow of sadness, protect myself from the rawness.
I completely changed my personal practice (many of you experienced this in classes last week as it was all I felt I could teach with any authenticity) to include forward bending postures which soothed and calmed my soul and helped me to let go in a controlled way that felt safe. Resting in child pose (often with fists in abdomen to release vata which grief aggravates) and crocodile which feel safer than than the vulnerable open gestures of corpse pose.
Here’s my current routine:
Activations and body preps
EBR1 or Earth sequence – to help me stay grounded.
Crocodile then pushing into child pose.
Standing forward bend. Charity pose with arms down not behind my back.
Easy pose with forward fold (legs crossed). Head to knee pose. Sitting forward bend.
Bridge (a quick one to counter the forward bends).
Deep yogic breathing and relaxation.
I have found that this has helped me to release my sadness at appropriate times when I am comfortable to do so, rather than letting it all out in an outpouring of tears in the middle of a class. After the first session I felt calmer and certainly more in control of my emotional responses. I also have to admit that I actually don’t want uplifting! I’m sad and for now I want to feel that. I’ve suppressed grief in the past and that definitely didn’t work!
For sure I will return to the heart opening postures because I know from experience how beneficial they are and how true it is that grief settles in the lungs, but just for now I am listening to my inner wisdom and sticking with my heart closing routine.